ORCHARD PARK, NY (AP) – The new stadium offered by the Buffalo Bills for $ 1.4 billion would have about 60,000 seats and 60 suites, the Associated Press has learned.
The bills’ proposal includes a construction schedule with a completion date set for no later than 2027 depending on how quickly a deal can be reached, a person with anonymity told the AP. direct knowledge of documents presented to state and county officials. because the plan has not been made public.
The team’s current lease expires in July 2023 and would be extended until the new facility opens, if the project is approved by New York State and Erie County.
The proposed capacity is about 12,000 seats less than the current Bills facility, now called Highmark Stadium, which was built in 1973. The new site would not include a roof, but would be designed to do so. that the majority of seats are protected. of the elements, the person said.
The team initially envisioned a larger stadium with a price tag of $ 1.6 billion before making the decision to scale back the project, the person said.
Discussions between Bills parent company Pegula Sports and Entertainment and government officials began in late May, with the parties hosting a site visit to the Bills retirement home last week.
The question is how quickly a deal can be approved and how the construction costs would be split between the team and the taxpayers. The Bills have previously said team owners Terry and Kim Pegula have pledged to share some of the costs, but haven’t identified how much.
The state and county are expected to be asked to cover more than 50% of the project, raising concerns about the potential for taxpayer funding.
The PSE proposal is considered preliminary and subject to change based on discussions as no renderings of the proposed facility have yet been submitted. Talks have been slowed down in part because of New York’s change of governor, with Kathy Hochul taking over last week after Andrew Cuomo resigned.
Hochul is originally from Buffalo and has had contact with PSE officials in the past.
His office released a statement to the AP on Monday that said, “No one is more determined to keep the Bills in Buffalo than Gov. Kathy Hochul, a longtime Buffalo Bills fan. Negotiations are ongoing and his administration looks forward to sharing details with the public as soon as negotiations are completed. ”
The $ 1.6 billion cost of the shared New York Giants and MetLife Stadium Jets facility, which opened in 2010, was funded entirely by the private sector. The $ 1.1 billion US Bank Stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, which opened in 2016, allowed taxpayers to fund 45.2% of the cost.
In Orchard Park, the $ 22 million construction tab of Highmark Stadium in the early 1970s was fully clawed back by taxpayers.
The bills ruled out the option of further renovations, as they would be prohibitively expensive compared to a fresh start.
More than $ 130 million was committed for renovations under the previous lease in 2013. A state-commissioned study conducted a year later predicted that the next round of renovations would cost $ 540 million, the most of the work being devoted mainly to the reconstruction of the entire third bridge. This cost is expected to be much higher in today’s dollars.
The Pegulas, who bought the Bills in 2014, said they spent an additional $ 146 million on capital, match day and stadium spending, which included upgrades to the suites, a new training center and the expansion of training grounds.
As part of a PSE-funded study launched in 2018, the team conducted an in-depth analysis focusing on three potential stadium venues in and around Buffalo before choosing to propose building the facility on a parking lot. controlled by the team in front of his current house.
The other two locations considered were on the University of Buffalo campus north of the city and a downtown site on the ground where the abandoned Perry projects are empty. The estimated cost of a downtown stadium was $ 1.9 billion, not including necessary infrastructure improvements, the person said.
PSE has since hired Legends Global Planning, a stadium consultancy firm controlled by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the New York Yankees. A division of the company, Legends Global Sales, was also hired to oversee the sale of sponsorship and seat licenses for the potential new stadium.
PSE’s submission includes an economic impact study, which concludes that the team generates $ 361 million per year for the regional economy.
Sports economists have pushed back the impact of sports facilities on local economies and question whether taxpayers should share the burden of the costs. This particularly involves NFL stadiums due to the limited number of opening dates based on the NFL’s 17-game regular-season schedule, University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson said.
“The answer is zero: Sports stadiums are not catalysts for economic development,” said Sanderson. “They greatly enrich the team and the league and the franchise owner.”
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